Michael, a 13-year-old 8th grader at George Leland Elementary School, lives with his mother and siblings in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood on the west side. Austin, one of United Way’s Neighborhood Network communities, faces big challenges including poverty, unemployment, crime, gun violence, gang activity and under-resourced schools with few extracurricular enrichment opportunities. Michael fell into a crowd of friends who were participating in dangerous activities with local gang members. Thankfully, staff at his school intervened and referred him to BUILD, a United Way partner agency that specializes in gang intervention, prevention and youth programs. He began to participate in a number of BUILD programming components, including Peace Circles, life skills workshops, Hoops in the Hood, and field trips such as a recent trip to Roosevelt University. He began to work closely with two BUILD staff members, Mike and Deion, who mentored him and sought to keep him on on a positive path.
In April, Michael was shot in his back while walking with a group of friends in a nearby park. Thankfully, Michael was able to recover and return to school and to BUILD. Mike and Deion began to see a change in him after the shooting. Michael became even more focused on staying out of trouble, engaging in the programs and avoiding gang activity. He saw a different future for himself and encouraged his friends to join him. At the same time, his BUILD mentors have worked diligently to make sure he stays active in school, monitoring his academic progress, conducting home visits, talking with his mother, and working to connect him to additional BUILD programming. Thanks to the team at BUILD and United Way’s support, Michael’s story changed. Instead of being another young man lost to violence, he is on the path to a safe and successful future.